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Airports and pandemics, Covid-19 and air transport, Airport passenger flows, Air transport statistics
This study provides the result of statistical analysis of weekly airport passenger traffic data and the rate of new COVID-19 cases (COVID-19 incidence rate) in Europe at both the country and sub national level during 2020, controlling for the prior incidence rate, the level of stringency of government measures, and the mobility of people. This paper focuses on the relationship between air travel and the COVID-19 incidence rate during the second half of the year because this addresses the real problem faced in Europe about whether to permit air travel after a novel virus was already highly present in the community. The paper does not seek to add to the literature about the role of air travel in the initial propagation of a novel virus, nor does it consider the impact of vaccine availability.
The analysis provides evidence that a 10% increase in airport passengers is correlated with a 0.14% increase in the COVID-19 incidence rate in Europe’s subnational regions during the second half of 2020. As comparison, an increase of 10% in the index of the stringency of government measures is correlated with a 4.3% reduction in the COVID-19 rate, and 10% more mobility in the population with a 2.9% increase in the COVID-19 rate. The paper uses a model that is based in literature and applies ordinary least squares (OLS) regression techniques for fixed effects and pooled panel data.
The finding that increases in air transport traffic when a novel virus is already widely present suggests that efforts to restrict or control air travel are not likely to be efficient.